I recently watched a sermon series by Andy Stanley called The Comparison Trap. In it, he talks about how we humans look to the right and to the left to find out if we’re okay. It’s how we decide if we’re doing well or failing, if we’re good enough or not quite making the grade.
I don’t consider myself somebody who falls into this trap often, but listening to him, I realized how I subtly compare myself and my family to others. I compare how we look, how much money we have, the size of our house, what kinds of cars we drive, where the kids go to school, what we do for work… The list is as long as the unique things that define us.
But by comparing my family to others, I’m discounting God’s hand in our lives. I’m judging God’s plan for me based on what He has done for others. And in doing so, I’m throwing myself into an unwinnable game. For every person I compare well to, there are two or three (thousand?) others who are far exceeding me.
But God’s way is better. “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (Galatians 6:45 NLT).
So what’s the solution? Not that I’ve arrived—not even close—but I find I need to keep my focus on God and what His plans are for me. If I focus on my work and pay attention to accomplishing all God has given me to do, then I have little time or reason to compare myself to others.
Maybe my books don’t sell as many copies as another author’s books, but as long as I write what God wants me to write, I’m a success in His eyes. My children have their own dreams, and their plans don’t include top-level colleges. But God looks at the heart, not the resume. Maybe somebody else’s husband has more worldly success than mine does, but my husband loves the kids, he loves me, he loves God, and I suspect God is pleased with him. So who cares what somebody else’s husband is doing?
We’re walking the path God laid out for us. We’re doing our best and striving to obey Him. Success comes through obedience, and since God’s plan for us is different than his plan for everyone else, the comparison game is one nobody can win.
Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.
If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.